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28.12.09

Beginning a New Year

Ah, 2010. We’ve finally come into a new year with new opportunities to change and grow. I’m finally going to finish writing that novel, lose that twenty kilos, stop drinking and – Oh! Leftover Christmas pudding!

Darn. Maybe I’ll do it in 2011.

I have always regarded each new year with a degree of apathy, even growing up. While I recognize the cultural significance of coming into a new year, that’s where the bus stops. Wiping the slate clean for a brand new year sounds great, but it rarely happens when you have all those unfortunate New Year’s Eve incidents starting with kissing your girlfriend’s best friend at midnight (oops) and ending with smacking the wrong person on the bum while getting off the train to go home.

Of course, you might not wake up with memories of these incidents. If so, consider your slate cleaned.

I suppose what really doesn’t work for me in regards to the new year traditions is the New Year Goal List. Something like half the goals set at the beginning of the year will fail in one way or another by the end of January. Do you really have to wait that extra eleven months to give it another go?

I think not.

You could say that moving across the world has given me the personality trait of frequent self-reinvention. After all, you don’t truly know who you are or what you hold dear (and what about yourself you would like to change) until you leave it all behind for a significant amount of time. However, I have always been one to make goals throughout the year rather than at one particular point – especially not on New Years or my birthday.

Some people say that it’s too much pressure to make a goal or goals on New Year’s Eve. It’s all about bettering yourself for the year, which is huge and prone to failure.

Sure, that’s part of it, but I think it’s more of an excuse than anything else.

Look at it this way: You make the goal (likely not for the first time) to lose that twenty kilos this year. Australia Day rolls around, you have the dessert at your friend’s barbie and BAM! You’ve fallen off the wagon. Instead of getting back on, you think ‘screw this’ because it was your ‘new year’ goal and you’ve just screwed it up.

Magically, you don’t have to worry about the weight loss for the rest of the year. Oh, sure, you might think about it, but it won’t be the same quality goal (if a goal at all) as it was when you started because it’s not a ‘New Year’s Goal’.

And that is the kind of mentality I have avoided all my life, because I would much rather believe that there is never a better day to reinvent yourself than today.

This all being said, I don’t mean to pop anyone’s bubble of enthusiasm for 2010. I think a new year does represent something almost mystical in quality, like a new car still fresh with that ‘new car’ smell. The kind of thing that makes you want to take off your shoes before you drive so you don’t mess up the new floor mats.

But a new year shouldn’t be the only event that makes you feel that way. Add in your birthday and you have two starting points per year.

Yes, a brand new starting point is a beautiful thing, but it shouldn’t be exclusive to the new year. You can reinvent yourself at any time. I reinvented myself in October of 2006 when I moved here. I reinvented myself earlier this year when I became a permanent resident.

And they weren’t even on Mondays.

Make your goal list for 2010 and have fun with it, but try doing something bold or a bit strange. Start the moment you finish the list. Or put it away for a fortnight, revise and start then. (Revision is essential, especially if you’re inclined to vow self-improvement in the midst of old friends and older bottles of wine.)

In the end, it’s not about the day, it’s about the changes you want to make for yourself. Sure, January 1st is a good starting point, but you might be surprised at how different you feel about the whole thing if you start December 28th or January 4th.

Until next time...

25.12.09

Happy Holidays!

20.12.09

Café Review: Batemans Bay Bakehouse

When my husband and I travel, we don’t like to get stuck into any one place for food. We like to explore the area and take our chances. However, there are times when we find a place that is so good that we can’t resist breaking our rule and going there as often as we can until we have to move on…

Batemans Bay Bakehouse is a lovely corner deli style café on the main street of Batemans Bay you will likely drive or walk on if you’re touring around or looking for something to eat in town.

Gorgeous floor to ceiling windows around a modest eating area means being able to enjoy the sunshine and foot traffic while keeping away from the occasionally chilly breezes or rain while you eat.

BBB Courtyard

There is also the outdoor seating option, well protected from the sun by large café umbrellas with the added cool bay breezes and a quiet courtyard to gaze out at if you sit at the edge. Though a smidge crowded at times, this is my favourite option.

BBB Fresh Juice and Coffee

Fresh squeezed delicious juices and delicious build-your-own focaccias are my personal favourites off the delicious menu and open cakes/pies selections.

BBB Foccacias

If you’re going to stop here, you simply must build your own foccacia (or roll). With fresh, quality ingredients including many things from chicken to tasty cheese, you’ll be sure to get a foccacia (fresh or toasted) that you won’t forget any time soon. I went for a chicken, cheese and avocado fresh foccacia that I still drool about.

Of course, you can get savoury pies, rolls, croissants, cakes, gelati, tarts, sandwiches, wraps… Do I really need to go on? It is a bakehouse, after all.

Bakehouse Coffees

Of course, a café review wouldn’t be complete without a bit about the coffee.

A good measure of a barista is how well they can follow directions when you’re specific about how you like your coffee. At Batemans Bay Bakehouse, they listen to what you want and follow directions to a ‘t’. A strong cup of coffee with a strong 4 cups rating, it was worth coming back for the coffee if nothing else.

Speaking of coffee, one thing my husband noticed while we were there is the barista on duty obviously knew what she was doing.

It’s easy to see this is a popular meeting as well as takeaway place. Prams and conversation a’plenty, I would be shocked if you ever found yourself sitting in the bakehouse alone. And, even then, I have no doubt that the staff would be great for a conversation.

Not only that, they remember what you like when you come in the next day. There isn’t much that will make you feel more valued as a customer than that.

I could definitely spend the morning or afternoon there enjoying the food and reading my novel.

***

Batemans Bay Bakehouse
Shop 6, Blandford Plaza
Orient Street
PO Box 1174
Batemans Bay, NSW 2536

(02) 4472 3999

18.12.09

The Next Step

Well, The Bloke and I talked to a GP on Wednesday night, asking every possible question we could think of about gallbladders, non-surgical alternatives and life without my gallbladder.

She said that January is 'quiet' for elective surgeries - yep, elective - so I shouldn't expect to have surgery until February if that is the route I decide to go with. With the surgical consult now not happening until after the holidays, it's looking like February is likely.

I was frustrated by the delay at first, but I realized that it gives me much more time to consider and try alternatives. As much as I'd like to live without the pain, I'd much rather keep my gallbladder. Surgery just plain doesn't appeal to me, so I am now putting more effort into researching natural alternatives.

Think what you want of natural treatments, but more natural living and alternatives have done more for me than hospitals and pre-packaged crap has ever done for me. If there is a way to keep my gallbladder, then I am going to go for it.

I must admit that I am nervous about passing stones my size, but people have talked about passing bigger ones.

As The Bloke said, it could be the non-surgical treatment I'm looking for. If something goes wrong, we have the hospital not even ten minutes away.

I know it probably sounds a bit risky, but all my options are risky at this point. Passing the stones is risky. Keeping them and living with the pain is risky. Having surgery is risky. I'm just choosing to try the risky option that has the most benefits (namely, keeping all my organs).

It's certainly an interesting way to enter the New Year, but I was the one who said 2010 would be a year of many changes...

16.12.09

Introducing...

Three new members of my body family - Thing One, Thing Two and Mimi

All three are a big pain in my gallbladder, though none are blocking anything important at the moment. They range from one being about 1/5th the size of my gallbladder (Mimi) to the largest being about 1/4th the size of my gallbladder (Thing One). (Thing Two is a middle size, but leaning more towards being as big as T1.)

Yep, I've gone and named my gallstones. I figure if I give them names, they'll be nicer to me. Even if I do plan on getting rid of them.

I confess to having looked at my ultrasound CD a few (or more) times. I know that one fourth of my gallbladder is only 2.5 centimeters (if that), but it's still weird knowing I have these three stones floating around inside me. Oh, they make their presence known often enough after the two early morning attacks in a row, but it's strange all around.

They look like beans.

Getting up every morning and checking to make sure my eyes haven't gone yellowish is certainly a new experience. They're pretty big, though, so I doubt they'll actually move to block anything. Still, I have to go to my GP tonight to give a heads up. They're supposed to monitor me until my surgery consult, but I don't know what they'll check in on that I can't keep track of myself.

I'm just hoping that this won't ruin Christmas or New Year's. The consult should happen sometime between now and next Wednesday, so I doubt they'd schedule surgery until after New Year...

...right?

11.12.09

Friday Funny - Noah in 2008

In the year 2008, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in Australia , and said:

'Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see the end of all flash before me. Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing along with a few good humans.'

He gave Noah the blueprints, saying: 'You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights.'

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard - but no Ark.

'Noah!' He roared, 'I'm about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?'

'Forgive me, Lord,' begged Noah, 'but things have changed.

'I needed a building permit.

'I've been arguing with the inspector about the need for a sprinkler system.

'My neighbors claim that I've violated the neighborhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard and exceeding the height limitations.

'We had to go to the Development Appeal Board for a decision.

'Then the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark 's move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.

'Getting the wood was another problem. There's a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl.

'I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls - but no go!

'When I started gathering the animals, an animal rights group sued me. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodations were too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.

'Then the EPA ruled that I couldn't build the Ark until they'd conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood.

'I'm still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I'm supposed to hire for my building crew.

'Immigration and Naturalization are checking the green-card status of most of the people who want to work.

'The trades unions say I can't use my sons. They insist I have to hire only Union workers with Ark-building experience.

'To make matters worse, the Tax Office seized all my assets, claiming I'm trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.

'So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark.'

Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky...

Noah looked up in wonder and asked, 'You mean you're not going to destroy the world?'

'No,' said the Lord. 'The government beat me to it.'

Picture This...

(Or 'You Know You're in Melbourne When...')

You're standing across the four lane highway (two lanes each way) from the train station, waiting impatiently for the pedestrian light to go green. The rain is pouring down, turning into big, wet water bullets with the force of the wind.

You hold your umbrella at a 45 degree angle. One, to block the barrage of water bullets. Two, because holding your umbrella any other way would snap it faster than a twig in the hand of an angsty teenager.

And yet, the impossible happens: As you're staring across the highway at the equally frustrated people over there, the sun shines.

Only visitors to Melbourne take note of this.

You look around in disbelief. You still see the menacing grey clouds filling your view of the sky. The rain is still pelting down on your umbrella and everyone else. Your inability to move your umbrella tells you that the wind is still blowing just as fast.

Yet, there is a little patch of sunshine nearly all the way across the highway and more that twice as wide.

Welcome to Melbourne.

6.12.09

Café Review: Theobrama Chocolate Lounge

Two notes before we get started on this review:

1. Remember to forgive the quality of the pictures – they’re taken on a phone. (Unless someone wants to play Santa and send me a nice handheld digi camera.)

2. I’m a chocolate addict.

Theobrama

The Theobrama Chocolate Lounge is one of those places you look at and think, “It would be very naughty of me to go in there…” That’s exactly what I thought in the months the place was open and I would walk by. However, after mentioning the place to my husband, we decided that, for the good of the people and in the name of research, we just had to check it out.

With hardwood floors and sleek design focusing on clean lines and earthy colours, Theobrama gives you the feeling of walking into a classy lounge without being intimidating to the average person off the street. Even if you are feeling a little intimidating, you are likely to see a pram or three around the place letting you know that it’s family friendly.

If you like to chat and/or read while you’re enjoying your café fair, then you will enjoy the comfortable dark chairs (to go with the dark wood tables) which are perfect for longer stays.

Overall, it’s a nice lounge-type area with space well-used. It does start feeling a little squished when it gets very busy, but there are always tables just outside if you don’t like being around that many people.

Choc Display 1

With dozens of quality chocolates – from chocolate cigars to the traditional individual gourmet chocolates (pictured below) – Theobrama is the stuff of dreams for chocolate lovers and the stuff of nightmares for anyone allergic to chocolate.

Choc Display 2

The staff have always been nice and smiling (why wouldn’t you be when you were working in a chocolate café?), but you shouldn’t expect to hold a long conversation with them. The place is usually fairly busy and they have a lot to do. Even so, they make you feel welcome.

Of course, I may be a chocolate addict, but we can’t review a café without mentioning the coffee.

Coffee

The coffee is lovely, full flavoured and not watery or bitter. Experience has taught that you have to specify exactly what you want with a long, strong macchiato (so you don’t end up with a long or short black), but it’s worth the specification here. For coffee lovers, it’ll likely be a hard tossup between a nice cup of coffee and something chocolatey.

Chocolate and coffee. Does it get any better?

I recommend the dark Belgian (always go Belgian – it’s worth it) chocolate mocha frappe and my husband recommends (after the coffee) the hot chili chocolate in a mug, which is an experience in itself…

Hot Chilli Choc

Down to the line of chocolate dribbled down the side of the mug, the hot chocolate (or chili chocolate) is one of the few things in the world that looks just as good as it does on the advertisements. Definitely go for a mug, though, so you get the experience of the small candle underneath to keep it warm.

My reader rating for Theobrama is easily a novel, as you can easily seat yourself away from the entrance and hustle n’ bustle of the shops nearby. The view out the windows isn’t exactly inspiring, but we’re talking reading here, not birdwatching.

I could happily spend hours in this place, but for the sake of my waistline, I’ll make it a treat kind of place only.

Definitely check it out.

PS. They do offer gift certificates. Ahem.

***

Theobrama Chocolate Lounge
Shop G17/18
171 – 175 Maroondah Hwy
Ringwood, VIC 3134
9847 0661

http://www.chocolatelounge.com.au/

2.12.09

The New Australian ...And the Not-so-White Christmas

As you have probably figured out by now, I like to keep track of anniversaries and whatnot. This winter will mark the third Christmas I have celebrated in Australia, and by gosh, I think I’m getting used to having summery Christmases.

When I celebrated my first Christmas in Australia, I had a wonderful time with my husband, then boyfriend. He hadn’t celebrated the holiday for a few years, so it was special in many ways for both of us.

Even so, my brain never quite caught up to the fact it was Christmas because I didn’t have my hot chocolate, my flannel pyjamas or, more importantly, my snow. For me, my first Christmas was like what Christmas in July would have been like back in the States.

When July did come around the next winter, I finally figured out what the feeling of ‘Christmas in July’ was all about. The weather left me feeling like I should be celebrating Christmas then, not seven months before or waiting another five months.

For my second Christmas in Australia, I felt something similar, but less so. I attended my first Australian Christmas barbie complete with friends, laughter and Christmas pudding with brandy butter. Our friends even participated in a friendly house-decorating competition (complete with lights and music) for the enjoyment of the suburb that reminded me above all else of Christmas in the States.

The following July – this past July – I waited for the ‘Christmas in July’ feeling. I waited for the winter weather to get me wishing, just a smidge, for Christmas lights and hot chocolate.

But it never came.

Instead, this year, I feel like I’m finally settled in to Australian Christmas way.

Though I am writing this a few weeks before you read it, the Christmas madness has already begun. Santa is already taking pictures with the little kids in the shops, the decorations and gift baskets are out and the advertisements for Christmas sales are going full blast. The shops are already busier and the companies are seeing the spike in their profits.

Yet, I didn’t think about the Black Friday (the shopping kind that happens in the US every year on the day after Thanksgiving) insanity. Heck, I didn’t really think about Thanksgiving, except for a moment of wishing I had some pumpkin pie on hand.

Slowly, I am starting to lose the association of red and green as being THE Christmas colours, as they are so often used in nearly every decoration I ever owned or saw in the States.

While I wondered about going to see some snow this past winter, I no longer find myself wishing for it as the holiday and the New Year approach.

I haven’t heard a single Christmas song played anywhere yet (for which I am very, very thankful) and can still enjoy my shopping without being forced to listen to cheerful, chirping voices that wouldn’t want to be anywhere near me on a bad day.

Cool drinks and meals that don’t involve a lot of hot oven time are on the agenda because of the possible heat instead of meals with long roasting time that will heat up the house as a byproduct of all that cooking and baking.

But even as I’m getting used to all this, the fact that I can go to the beach and swim on Christmas still makes me smile. And giggle in a slightly evil way if I’m feeling wicked while my friends in the States are complaining about the cold. (Some things should just plain stay new to you no matter what so you can reap the enjoyment again and again.)

Yes, Christmas here is different, but not as different as it was before. With each passing year, things are more enjoyable. More comfortable.

More me.

Sometimes I miss the ‘newness’ of it all, but finally feeling like everything surrounding me is the normal way of doing things is so much better. Finally feeling like I’ve found my place and truly settled in…

Well, I’ll even give up my slightly evil giggle for that.

Wishing you wonderful holidays and an amazing new year.

26.11.09

One of My Joys by Malana Ashlie

One of my joys is to walk barefoot along the beach. I walk the water’s edge, allowing waves to come and tickle my toes, then retreat only to return. Meanwhile my eyes keep watch on the waterline searching for riches the ocean may offer. I’ve gathered sand dollars, sharks teeth, small nautilus shells and discarded homes of conchs. Each of these treasures offered by the sea, but for only a moment and then carried away.

If I become distracted, hesitate or miss grabbing for the gift in the foam, the sea will sometimes offer me a second chance, but that is only when she feeling generous. The sea lives in the moment; when you see something you want- don’t hesitate- go for it.

I remember as a child, living with the fear of doing wrong, acting unacceptably, or no longer being loved if I broke ‘rules’. But, for all my being good, I wasn’t happy. I saw other people breaking rules, yet the world didn’t end. Little by little, I was awakening to the realization that I was choosing the proper way while exciting opportunities passed me by.

Years passed and my awareness grew. I saw people that I loved become ill and die before their life had been lived. I watched others become old and disabled while they waited for the perfect time to live their dream. All these lessons were not lost on me, but stored away in my heart. Then finally the words that connected all the experiences came to me…

When you come to the edge of all the light that you know,
And are about to step out into the darkness of the unknown,
Faith is knowing one of two things will happen…
You will be given something firm to stand on,
Or you will be taught to fly.

Today, I walk the beach in every area of the world that I travel to; I search for the treasures hidden in every religion, culture and country. I challenge myself to always stretch the limits of my knowledge and accept the differences in every individual I meet. I do this for me; for those who no longer can and to give my children and grandchildren permission to be, always, in a state of ‘becoming.’ I walk the beach as a celebration of life.

About the Author

Malana Ashlie is the author of Gringos in Paradise: Our Honduras Odyssey. She holds degrees in naturopathy, herbal sciences, subtle energy as well as a PhD in Metaphysics. She has been privileged to study with traditional Elders of Mayan and Hawaiian cultures. Dr. Malana has been widely published on the subjects of holistic health and spiritual growth and now offers this in her independent study program: Dynamics of Healing and Happiness. She currently lives along the sunny coast of Honduras but travels teaching workshops that incorporate ancient wisdom into modern life.

Visit Malana at:
www.gringos-in-paradise.com
www.wisdompathway.com

25.11.09

Special Guest Expat Malana Ashlie - Author of 'Gringos in Paradise: Our Honduras Odyssey'

Malana Ashlie, Ph.D., is the author of Gringos in Paradise: Our Honduras Odyssey and Pathways to Inner Peace. A certified naturopath and holistic healer, Dr. Ashlie is also an interfaith minister and ceremony leader.

A scholar of ancient wisdom, she has been privileged to study with Mayan elders, sacred teachers of Native American traditions, and Hawaiian kupuna. She is also an adept of the Hermetic Principles. Exploring the mysteries of indigenous cultures has expanded her abilities as a Reiki Master and enhanced her awareness of other subtle energies. She travels extensively throughout the United States and Central America, lecturing, teaching, and leading retreats.

After five years in Hawaii, Malana and her husband Ordin, along with Pueo, their shamelessly spoiled cat, relocated in 2006 to the tiny beach community of El Porvenir, on Honduras’s little-known Caribbean coast. There they participate in the life of the community while managing Wisdom Pathway, a business that offers the spiritual retreat /eco-tour portion of the personal discovery seminars and workshops Dr. Ashlie teaches.

For more information about the author, visit www.wisdompathway.com or www.gringos-in-paradise.com

Blog
Twitter



Gringos in Paradise: Our Honduras Odyssey by Malana Ashlie is a delightfully amusing and lighthearted autobiography chronicling her move from Hawai’i to the Caribbean Coast of Honduras. When she and her husband decide to relocate to a more secluded paradise the fun begins. She shares the trials and triumphs of building a new life in Central America, in what can best be described as a spiritual journey of faith.

Of special appeal to the swelling ranks of expat retirees in Mexico and Central America (over one million strong, according to 2005 census estimates), Gringos in Paradise shares the adventures — and misadventures — two retirees face as they set off to the Caribbean coast of Honduras in search of financial freedom, personal fulfillment, and peace.



Malana Ashlie’s GRINGOS IN PARADISE VIRTUAL BLOG TOUR ‘09 will officially begin on Nov. 25 and end on December 10. You can visit Malana’s blog stops at www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com during the month of December to find out more about this great book and talented author!

22.11.09

Café Review: My Chocolate Shoppe

Caught out on a hot, sticky day in Kiama with a few hours to spare before we were meeting friends, the husband and I were wandering around looking for somewhere to relax. Of course, I opted for the first place I saw that combined two things I really wanted at that moment: air conditioning and chocolate.

As you probably have figured out by now, I have a thing for hardwood floors. Stepping into the air conditioned comfort of My Chocolate Shoppe in Kiama, I immediately fell in love with the hardwood floors and deep blue walls of this space. With jazzy music playing in the background and soft lighting as the day grew darker, I couldn’t help but feel relaxed.

My Chocolate Shoppe is a ‘posh’ shop, but only in positive, comfortable ways. It’s a small shop, but that makes it feel intimate and familiar. My husband and I opted for cushy chairs in front of the large store front windows so we could watch the world go by. (Please forgive me for the lack of location pictures. I blame travel tiredness and heat tiredness.)

The shop is a busy one – is that any surprise with such fine chocolates and other chocolate gourmet goodies on offer? – but it never feels crowded or even noisy.

My Chocolate Shoppe Coffee

The coffee at My Chocolate Shoppe doesn’t disappoint, providing a rich, full bodied cup of delicious hot liquid. Not a man easily impressed by any coffee, he readily rated his coffee at a strong four out of five – and he has never tasted a five.

I, of course, didn’t have any interest in the coffee, as I was reveling in this beauty…

My Chocolate Shoppe Iced Choc

I originally ordered a chai latte, but after seeing a woman at another table receive one of these… Well, I just had to have what she is having. After all, what better time to indulge than while on vacation?

And what an indulgence it was.

With two scoops of ice cream – one vanilla and once chocolate – a generous heap of whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles on top, I have never had a lovelier iced chocolate. Turning her nose up when asked about chocolate syrup, you could really taste the fine Belgian chocolate difference.

At six dollars (AUD), it was the most expensive iced chocolate I’ve ever had, but – in my penny-pinching opinion – it was worth every single cent. The care put into everything from the chocolate used to the presentation was brilliant.

I am happy to give My Chocolate Shoppe my first ever reader rating of encyclopaedia, a place I know they would have to kick me out of before I would ever want to leave. I can only hope that they open a location in Victoria or I can relocate to New South Wales.

***

My Chocolate Shoppe
Shop 13 – 206
Terralong Street
Kiama, NSW

02-42324225

18.11.09

Top 10 Places to See In Brisbane - Special Guest Post!

I'm not in the position to go anywhere and everywhere in Australia, so when Gagan from Brisbane Blog offered a guest post about Brisbane, I was more than happy to post up the article.

I hope you all join me in welcoming Gagan to The New Australian.


Top 10 Places to See in Brisbane

Brisbane is the state Capital of Australian State Queensland and is the largest city of the state. This Beautiful city is located on the Brisbane River and is surrounded by many national parks, rivers and inlets. Brisbane is the third most popular destination for tourists after Sydney and Melbourne. The City contains a lot of Museums, art galleries, parks providing tourists lot of places they can explore and spend quality time. In this article we would be putting the Top 10 Places which you can’t afford to miss on your Brisbane Trip.


Mount-Coot Tha

Mount-Coot Tha is a mountain suburb in Brisbane. The Mountain is 287 meters above sea level and is located at 6 Km in the west of Brisbane. The Monut-Coot Tha reserve contains more than 1500 hectares of native wildlife. The lookout includes cafe, gift shop and restaurant. There are several track of different difficulty levels involving some uphill sections or Tops.



South Bank Parklands

South Back Parklands is another popular place to visit in Brisbane. It is located at the Southern Bank of Brisbane River and includes lot of attractions like Wheel of Brisbane, Swimming lagoon, street Beaches. More than 200 events are organized in South Bank each year. South Bank is also a mecca of Restaurants and Coffee Shops , where you can enjoy flavors of all around the world.



Roma Street Parkland

Roma Street Parkland is spread over 16 hectares of land in the center of Brisbane. It is the largest urban subtropical garden in world. The parkland is divided in to five individually designed themed gardens – Spectacle Garden, The Lake Precinct, The Forest and Fern Gully, Celebration Precinct, Upper Parkland. Roma Parkland is a wonderful recreational are where you can enjoy with your whole family.



Brisbane City Botanic Gardens

The Brisbane City Botanic Garden is located at Garden Point on the Brisbane River. The roughly triangular park contains many rare and unusual botanic species. The Brisbane Gardens are open 24 hours for tourists free of charge. The main Interest of Gardens are the City Gardens Café, the water hill foundation and Gardens Cycle Hire station at Entrance.



Brisbane Forest Park

Brisbane Forest Park is located on the western part of Brisbane adjacent to Mount-Coot Tha reserve. Established in 1973 the Park has informational and educational center of Australian Wildlife. The entrance to the Park is Located at the Gap where you can reach by Bus 383 or Car. You can enjoy Great lookouts, Walking Tracks and picnic spots in the park. The Walk-About Creek Wildlife Centre display Australian wildlife including native birds.



Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was founded in 1927 and is located in Brisbane Suburb of Fig Tree Pocket. The sanctuary has a diverse wildlife including Koalas, Kangaroos, Wombats, Echidnas and various species of Reptiles. Visitors can feed the free roaming kangaroos in this reserve. You can see lot of colorful birds like Australian Parrots in the Sanctuary. The Entrance of Sanctuary is From Brisbane River which is easily accessible by a private taxi or a local bus.



Moreton Bay

Moreton Bay is 19 km from Brisbane and is the largest bay on the eastern coast of Australia. From Sailing to Sand Toboggan there is lot to do in Moreton Bay. From Swimming to surfing you can enjoy everything in the blue water of Moreton Bay .You can also feed Dolphins at Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resorts on Moreton Island. Events are organized all over the year on Moreton Bay including the most popular Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race. It is one of the most favorite places of tourists who love water sports.



Fortitude Valley

Fortitude valley is suburb of central Brisbane named after 19th century Ship SS Fortitude. It is Brisbane one of the most Fashionable and vibrant Precinct. The valley is known for clubs and nightlife and is the best place for you to visit if you are more in to Partying. The valley is the cultural hub of Brisbane. Local Events are organized all over the year. The main events are Valley Transmission, Valley Fiesta, Valley Jazz Festival and Big Gay Day.


Queensland Cultural Centre

Queensland Cultural Centre is located at South Bank adjacent to Brisbane River. It is the home of important Art institutions of Australia like Queensland Museum, State Library of Queensland, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, and Queensland Art Gallery. Gallery is open every day of the week from 10 am to 5 pm. You can learn a lot about the rich culture and heritage of the country after visiting the Queensland Cultural Centre.


Tamborine Mountain

Tamborine Mountain is located in the south of Brisbane is a 28 Km-square Plateau. The major attraction on Tamborine Mountain is Gallery walk which is a street of Cafes and souvenir shops. Tamborine Mountain has lot of walking Trails passing through Rainforest Regions, cliffs and waterfalls.

***

Gagandeep Singh is working for a Brisbane Australia, which is a complete blog dedicated to information about Brisbane Hotels, Travel and Tourism.

15.11.09

And We're Back

After about a week away (one night in Eden and five nights just south of Bateman's Bay), the husband and I are back and feeling pretty relaxed. The drive back all in one day was a bit hard, but we made good time. We also had a meal voucher, so we didn't have to cook when we got back. (Always a plus after a long trip.)

I didn't do one bit of creative writing during the whole trip, but I am not going to stress about it. Relaxation was the aim of the holiday, and we achieved that aim. The place where we stayed - The Chalet Swisse - certainly is a place I can imagine going back to as a writer's retreat, though.

Now that I'm back and refreshed, I want to make a good start of it. I'm currently looking around for calls for submissions both to write for and to post on InkyBlots. If you have any you want advertised, let me know. Even if I don't qualify/write in that genre, I'm happy to post it on my site.

More for a good start, I have printed off some raw recipes (raw chocolate!) to try in the following weeks. I am excited to try new things and I know I could use a detox after all the seafood mornay I ate...

We missed a heat wave in Melbourne while we were away, but it looks like it's going to get right toasty again, so I'm sure cold and easy meals will be more than welcome.

9.11.09

Café Review: Flying Emu Café

Halls Gap is a small down in the heart of the Grampians mountains, located in western Victoria. With beautiful views all around, wildlife like kangaroos wandering close and a lot of homey small shops to explore, it makes an ideal vacation spot. You wouldn’t want to be in the crush of tourists during the season, but I was fortunate enough to travel through during the off season.

On the main street through Halls Gap there is a set of small shops called the Stony Creek stores. Amongst them is the Flying Emu Café.

Flying Emu Café

A café couldn’t have a more perfect location.

Flying Emu - Outside

You can choose to sit inside in the nicely sized dining room with large windows lining the front and modest decorations. Or you can choose to sit outside and enjoy the lovely sunshine, absolutely gorgeous mountain views and the sound of the nearby creek.

Flying Emu Park

As we waited to place our orders, I couldn’t help but notice the menus on the table. Pictures included, the menu contained ten different ways to have your coffee. This lends the impression that they are coffee experts, but…

The coffee is okay, but not very well made. There isn’t a lot of depth to the flavour.

The don’t make chai, either, but they have things like hot chocolate so you won’t be lost if you’re not a big coffee drinker. (Or if you don’t care to give the coffee a go for yourself.)

Flying Emu Devonshire Tea

The scones, jam and cream made for a delicious decadent brunch choice. The scones are served so warm and fresh that you must break them with your fingers and not cut them with your knife, lest you turn the inside doughy with your cold knife. I wasn’t actually aware of that before we ate there, but my husband informed me quickly when he saw me reaching for my knife.

While the scones are delicious, they are also huge. One serve (two scones) is enough to split between two people.

The coffee was a bit lackluster, but the beautiful environment and tasty traditional fare made it a place that sticks out in my memory. It is a place I will visit again (in the off season).

***

Flying Emu Café
Stony Creek Stores
Hall’s Gap, VIC

8.11.09

Vacation Day One



Readers, meet Eden, New South Wales. This is the view from the Bayview Inn. Aaah. There is a similar view from the absolutely magnificent restaurant at the end of the inn.

Aaaah. I'm already feeling more relaxed. Mmm.

(And yeah, we went swimming in the pool. It was a hot, hot day for driving so many kilometres.)

5.11.09

To Be Honest

I have been having a tough time lately for reasons I don't care to mention. I'm not in any sort of trouble that warrants help; it's more the kind that makes me want to curl up in bed and not face the world for a few days.

But, I have work and a life - not to mention a husband - to take care of, so I soldier on and just take a bit longer to get back to normal.

Thank you all for bearing with me.

3.11.09

Making the World a Better Place With Fun

I love these.



30.10.09

Friday Fill-In 148

Friday Fill In

1. It was a dark and stormy night, as it would have been a quite mystical experience to have a night that isn't dark. However, it was nice to have the storm add to the overall ambiance of the night.

2. I cannot stand books being mistreated, especially burned, so I offered to take the books myself.

3. Rushing out, I ran into the screen door.

4. I offered my husband some of my green smoothie for breakfast...I think I heard a howl!

5. Shhhh... the Easter Bunny is coming.

6. I'm going to get cranky if you don't give me something good to eat!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to trying out some new raw recipes and relaxing, tomorrow my plans include working ahead to cover the upcoming holiday and Sunday, I want to sleeeeeep!

25.10.09

Café Review – Tiamo 1

While travelling around Victoria and popping into various cafés, there are certain places that forever stick in your mind for one reason or another. The café I am reviewing today is one of those places.

tiamo 1 and 2

Tiamo is an interesting café with a prime spot on Lygon street in Carlton, but it is not interesting so much for its location than its neighbor – Tiamo 2.

While Tiamo serves more as the traditional café, Tiamo 2 is located just beside it, providing everything you could want from a traditional Italian cuisine establishment. Of course, the co-businesses use the to their full advantage. The elegant looking pasta and pizza dishes are often served outside in front of the café goers, and the delicious coffees are on full display for the restaurant goers.

However, Tiamo 2 will be a review for another day.

While we should have picked a less windy day for sitting outside to enjoy our coffees, the experience was still a highly enjoyable one that I would love to do again. Opting for more traditional wooden seating, Tiamo feels a bit more homely and welcoming that the typical café.

Inside, Tiamo is a small, cozy coffee bar with equally cozy tables and an atmosphere of comfortable intimacy. While the tables outside have more of a newspaper reader rating because of environment, inside is, without a doubt, novella status.

The staff are wonderful, friendly and attentive without being overzealous about it (a pet peeve I have about waitstaff). Whether you are sitting inside or out, there is a lot of good energy all around with customers chatting away, staff keeping busy and overall, a lot of people having a good time.

tiamo 1 cafe coffee

The coffee is what you would expect from a true Italian place on Lygon street – hot, strong and with rich flavour even in a simple standard shot. Even my usual flat white packed a rich coffee flavour that surprised me, as many places interpret ‘flat white’ as ‘warm milk’.

Tiamo is a place I am looking forward to going back to, not just to relax with a wonderful coffee but also to visit the neighboring Tiamo 2, the scents from which almost tempted me to sit down and eat when I wasn’t hungry.

***

Tiamo
303 Lygon Street
Carlton, VIC 3053

http://www.tiamo.com.au/

20.10.09

They’re Turning Weird in Melbourne - Intro to the Hook Turn

Trams provide regular public transport across the inner suburbs of Melbourne and in times when the freeways and tollways around the city are called car parks (Monash Carpark, Eastern Carpark etc.) by frustrated Melbournites, trams can provide calmer access to many locations.

Mostly things go well for residents and visitors alike, but there is a facet of Melbourne not seen elsewhere. They are labeled with numerous epithets by those who don’t understand them and they provide an easy way to spot visitors to the city.

Hook turns. More recent tramlines are laid in the median strip of roads so they have a free run through traffic, but in the city that isn’t possible. So, at labeled intersections in the centre of Melbourne, right turns are done from the left side of the road.

In Australia, driving is on the left side of the road, like the UK. So as you approach a labeled intersection, wanting to turn right, you move into the left lane and put on your right blinker. (indicator) You proceed through the green light to a point where you’re directly in front of the traffic waiting for their red light to turn green, moving (if possible) to the left of the lane you were in so traffic behind you can go through. And wait.

When the light on the road you wish to turn onto goes green, after checking your rear view for drivers who think red lights mean go really fast to get through before the other road takes off, you promptly (delays will get you honked) turn to your right and travel off down the road.

19.10.09

Café Review: Gallery Corner

Having grown up in the country and now living in the suburbs, occasionally I find myself missing the things you only get in the country. Country pubs, country shops, country people and, of course, country cafés.

While Hamilton isn’t a particularly small country town, one café in particular there never fails to bring back all the good feelings of small down cafés and delicious country cooking:

Gallery Corner.

This is actually not the first time we have stopped by this cozy little place, but we made sure to hunt it down once more on our second time through. (It made that much of an impression.)

Hamilton Coffees

The coffee is good but not spectacular. A coffee connoisseur would be very likely to pass it by. The short macciato is of a three cup rating quality. However, the short black brought the rating down to a 2 ½. However, there is so much more to a place than the coffee, which is why I never review a place strictly on the coffee and never review having only had takeaway.

Hamilton Café Meals

The food at Gallery Corner is delicious, country style food both in preparation, proportions and flavours. Everything is served fresh (with the unfortunate exception of the mushrooms, which came from a tin) and hot. I recommend the BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato) while my husband highly recommends the big brekkie.

There is plenty available for both eat in and takeaway, including…

Corner Café Hamilton

…a huge display of cakes, biscuits, pies (of the savoury and sweet variety) and more. (The picture only shows one part of the display.

Yum.

While there aren’t any couches or a true lounge area, I can easily imagine myself sitting here for a couple hours chatting, reading, writing, eating and even sitting in front of the large windows people watching… The place has a sort of wholesome country style environment that I miss while I’m stuck in the suburbs.

Not only that, but the staff are happy and friendly as well, so it’s hard not to be inclined to stick around.

***

Gallery Corner Fine Food
175 Gray Street
Hamilton, VIC

11.10.09

Three Years

Three years ago on October 11th, 2006, I stared down at beautiful Melbourne as my plane flew in to land at Tullamarine airport. Looking at the beautiful morning sun shining over the landscape, I knew I could be happy here. I knew this could be my home.

Even though I had started my trek in the US so many hours ago and had barely slept on the flight over, nervous anticipation kept me wide awake. I hastily applied some lip gloss and tried to do what I could with my hair. The plane from Sydney to Melbourne was nearly empty anyway, so I didn’t care if I looked a bit silly.

After all, I would be meeting the man I loved in person for the first time. With all the technology of phones, instant messaging and even video chats, meeting in person can never be replicated.

Of course, three years on, I look back on the day and chuckle a bit. I remember taking off my shoes because I didn’t want my husband (then boyfriend) to think I was taller than I actually was. I also remember sitting in awed silence for most of the way home, as I had never been through a city as big as Melbourne. Not to mention that I’d just come from a particularly dreary autumn in the US to the beautiful spring weather of Australia.

And, of course, within hours of arriving, my then boyfriend and now husband treated me to my first legal drink on Australian soil: a strawberry daiquiri.

All while I giggled over the fact that the café we went too actually had a menu item with the word 'ass' in it. (Big Ass Brekkie)

Three years on feels like nothing in regards to the time that has passed – merely a drop in the bucket. But I do feel I have used the time well. I have travelled to nearly every sector of Victoria as well as in many areas of Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales.

I have learned about Australian history and culture, and I have also learned a lot more about the United States than I ever could have learned within its borders. I have been exposed to countless different beliefs, ways of life, philosophies and – of course I have to mention it – food!

Alas, three years on and I still have a lot to learn. While I can have a Captain Cook at all the books I like, there are still things in Australia that only experience can teach you. Even if I wanted to spit out VB when I tried it, and even though I happily admit to liking Asti Riccadonna, putting me squarely in the ‘strange lot’ for some people, I am enjoying every moment of it.

I am even moving more of my attention into Melbourne’s café culture. I have started a website that combines my love of books and reading along with my love of cafés. You can find the site at http://www.downunderviews.com I have a notebook filled with places I’ve been from the Tea Rooms in Hall’s Gap to Center Stage Café in Chelsea, so if you have any recommendations for places you love anywhere in Australia, please do not hesitate to contact me either on the website.

Though I had twenty years in the US, I didn't truly begin living until I came to Australia. Not only because The Bloke and I met and then got married. Not only because I had moved to a new county. I truly began to live because I found the place I was meant to live in and the person I was meant to be with all along.

Australia is a beautiful place, as I am sure I have told you many times and many ways in these posts. I only wish that everyone had the opportunity to travel here and experience life here (and then go home, as too many people not leaving tends to upset the locals a bit).

I’m raising a glass to three beautiful years in a country I absolutely adore and to the man - The Bloke - who made it all possible to happen.

I’m hoping that there will be many more years and good memories to come.

Until next time…

10.10.09

Baking!

All the baking I did?

Now you see...

9.10.09

Driving - And Walking - Outside the United States

When you’re walking down the sidewalk or even passing people in a busy hall, take a moment to which side of the hall people drift to depending on which direction they’re going. I’ll bet that most people move to the side they are used to driving on. In the States, that would be on the right.

This is something I hadn’t even thought about when I came here, but when I started bumping into people a lot at the mall, I began to really look at what I was doing. When I walked towards people, I saw them go to the(ir) left, instead of going to my left like I expected.

I realized it was my natural habit to drift to the right when walking in a place with two directions of human traffic because I’d been driving long enough to have that fully ingrained in my mind.

So when you’re walking around in Australia (or any other country that drives opposite the US way) and find you’re bumping into people, take a look at if you’re going to the right instead of the left to avoid people.

And you thought driving in other countries was hard.

5.10.09

Conserving Water in Australia

When you flush a toilet down under, does the water go the opposite way? Yes. The thing about Aussie toilets is I’ve have yet to see one where the water doesn’t just rush straight back instead of swirling around.

I just thought we’d get that out of the way.

The thing that makes Aussie toilets different isn’t the way the water swirls, but the fact there is (more often than not) two buttons on top of them. No one jiggly handle for the Aussies. Why? Because Australia has been experiencing a drought and is focused on water conservation.

The two buttons are easy to figure out, if you think about it. Unfortunately, I didn’t and ended up having to ask my husband. There is usually either a smaller button or a button with a slash through it for using a little water, and a bigger button or a button without a slash for using more water.

You can figure the rest out.

So if you’re ever traveling in Australia, do your little part to help conserve water.

4.10.09

Café Review: Nibble and Natter

When you step into Nibble and Natter, the first thing you will notice are the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. With a menu that covers everything from focaccias to breakfast foods, it’s a wonder anyone can pick just one thing to try.

If you’re like me and have a bit of a sweet tooth, they will have you covered there as well with a nice selection to appeal to all tastes. The prices look as good as the food smells, so you can feel good that what you spend will be worth what you get.

If you’re just passing through, they have the usual travel fare including gum, soda, crisps and so on. But again, why anyone would buy that stuff when the food smells so good is beyond me.

Ballarat is hardly a small country town, but Nibble and Natter is exactly the kind of place I would envision in a place like that.

Nibble Natter Coffees


The coffee is another standard cup of Australian coffee well made. If you’re sitting in or getting take away

Nibble and Natter could use a carpet replacement and a fresh coat of paint on the walls, but it’s obvious that the locals aren’t bothered if the business of the place is any indication. Hey, I would love to see this place freshened up, but even if it’s not, I’m still coming back to try the food.

***


Nibble and Natter
215 Sturt Street
Ballarat, VIC

It's Midnight...

...and I'm still baking. I don't estimate being all finished up until at 1am at the soonest.

I love baking. Even now. But I had one of those moments of self-realization...

I try way too hard to please people. To make everyone happy. I never think that anything I do or just me as a person is good enough way deep down, so I compensate.

That's why I have a batch of Peanutellas (my made up bikkie), a batch of peanut butter cookies - half of which have been dipped in chocolate - and two pans of brownies in the kitchen.

I know, logically, that there are going to be a bunch of happy guys (and maybe some women, as I'm not sure who all is going to the little afternoon meet up of sorts [which, no, I was not asked to bake for]) with baked goods galore tomorrow. But I also know, logically, that they would have been just as happy with a brownie each.

Of course, I've been baking and dipping things in chocolate while writing this post, and now it's 12.40 am. So, at least I should be done by 1. Possibly sooner if I wrap this up and go get the dishes done.

Riddle me this, dear readers: Why do I keep trying so hard when I already know these people like me?

2.10.09

I'm Ready

Ever since Jenera posted about tattooing your significant other's name on your body, I haven't stopped thinking about it.

Even before I got my first tattoo, I had two rules about any permanent markings on my body:

1. It had to mean something. No drunken misadventures, no dares, no 'because it looks cool'. I'm a complete tattoo snob in that way.

2. No names or dates.
Okay, that's kind of two rules put into one, but it works. No names or dates because you never know what you won't want to remember ten years down the road.

Even though I was utterly devoted to The Bloke since our first online conversation, I still stuck to my rules. Sure, he made everything happen that inspired my second tattoo (Celtic butterfly), but still - no names.

I have thought about putting his first initial or initials on me, but I didn't go any further than that. Yet now, after reading Jenera's post...

If The Bloke were to do something really - I mean really - nasty to me or if we were to break up for some other reason, I still cannot fathom looking back on this time with him with any disdain. Even if he did to me the things that people did to me back in the States that played a part in me leaving, I know I would still look back on our time thus far with a smile.

So I have made my decision - I'm ready. I'm ready for The Bloke, my husband, to have his name on my body. And, for all the possible tattoo ideas I have had, this one is the one I have settled into the easiest.

I was thinking possibly simple but elegant script on my shoulder as a possibility, but then I got to thinking that I could add his name and either our marriage date or the date of my arrival in Australia (or both) and have them put below my butterfly on my right wrist.



Another alternative would be the lower back of my neck and have his name under or over an ohm symbol (which I decided months ago to have put on my body anyway).

All are significant, all are symbolic - so there are no worries there. I am by no means breaking rule number one. It's just a toss-up with which way to go...

Friday Fill-In

Just because I can Friday Fill-In...

And...here we go!

1. I have a history of saying things I shouldn't.

2. How to stop time is something I wish I knew.

3. I'm eating (or recently ate) some thickly sliced Swiss mushrooms with spicy tomato and basil pesto. Yum...

4. In about mid-November, The Bloke and I will be on the road.

5. So that's it, that's how you juggle bananas.

6. A t-shirt better than nothing!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to finish up baking and work before happily falling into bed, tomorrow my plans include more baking because I lost a bet, possibly a road trip and Sunday, I want to distribute my baked goods and have a relaxing day - hopefully with more sleep time!

30.9.09

Sleepy JM

I've hit one of those times when I have so much to do with five tours running in October (starting the 5th) along with - crossing fingers - the launch of my ebook for authors who want to promote via guest posting.

I have two to-do lists: urgent and non-urgent. Thankfully the non-urgent one is longer than the urgent.

Because I'm tired and work-focused at the moment, I have a challenge for you...

My three year anniversary of arriving in Australia is coming up on October 11th. So what's the challenge? I don't know what to do!

I officially throw open the suggestion doors. Suggest anything you want. I make no promises, but I can't think of anything. Preferably something reasonably cheap, but don't let that stop you from something you think is truly fun or awesome.

So, readers...

What should I do for my three year Australia anniversary?

29.9.09

The Cricketers Bar – The Best Bathrooms in Melbourne

I know, I know; this has to be one of the strangest post titles I’ve come up with. But bear with me.

A sporty, cozy kind of bar on Spring street and across from Parliament Station, the Cricketers Bar sees a wide assortment of patrons. From politicians to stray tourists, plenty of people wander in for a drink and a chat to the friendly staff.

You’d never guess (except for some of the patrons in fancier attire) that you’re drinking at part of the Windsor Hotel.

With memorabilia of cricket from days gone past on the walls, there is plenty to look at and talk about. Not that socializing is ever on the decline. The place is small but comfortable, making for a great place to relax – especially on a hot day after work.

Now for the explanation of the title.

The Cricketers Bar, part of the Windsor Hotel, has the best bathrooms I’ve ever had the pleasure of relieving myself in. They’re not just big. They’re not just fancy. They’re awesome. Tiled floors, fancy lights, wooden doors… Think of a grotty pub bathroom and then try to imagine the complete opposite.

Don’t just take my word for it. Go and have a drink. When the time strikes, I’m sure you’ll be at least half as surprised as I was.

They’re impressive. Trust me.

28.9.09

Multicultural Melbourne

Melbourne is different than a lot of cities around the world – obviously it’s Australian - but also, it is unique even for Australia.

Melbourne is a city of variation, one where a visitor can find pockets of almost pure nationalities from around the world. In Carlton, just to the North-east of the city block, Italy rules and as one travels beyond the CBD (Central Business District) there are Asian areas, Greek, Turkish and many more. Something like 130 nationalities are represented here.

What this means is Melbourne could claim to be the culinary capital of the world with a serious chance of making it stick. With Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian, Chinese of several types, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Sri Lankhan, Tibetan, Nepalese, Lebanese, Turkish, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Moroccan – you get the idea – almost all of the 130+ peoples from around the world have a restaurant here.

So this creates a problem – when you decide to eat out, what do you choose? You could starve trying to make a decision. Often people simply choose a restaurant that provides a variety of choices – there are many such where you can get anything from a pizza to a pilau.

Mongolian is a treat that stands a little apart. The Kublai in Croydon is an example of a restaurant that not only provides the cuisine but brings the experience of Mongolian food to the diner. You choose your meat and vegetables, spoon a variety of sauces onto the bowl of thin-sliced food, and pass the bowl through a hatch into the ‘kitchen’ where, behind glass, the chef dumps it onto a large iron plate above a roaring fire.

After about 30 seconds of stirring around with extra large chopsticks, with a theatrical sweep of the sticks and dramatic whirl of the bowl around his head, the chef presents fresh, just-cooked food that delights the palate. (they provide sample recipes on the wall to ensure first-timers make a reasonable choice of flavours)

At $22 for a banquet, it is hard to stop going back for ‘just one more bowlful’ to try a different mix of sauces. The Kublai also provides an extensive selection of more usual Asian fare, good coffee and tea and margaritas both traditional and other flavours (by the bowlful if wanted) that are half price during the week.

Melbourne has often won the award for ‘Most Liveable City in the World’ and the sheer variety of, as well as the high quality of food and preparation of the various cuisines is a big factor in why the awards have been earned.

My First Green Smoothie



Yum, yum, eh? Read more about it at Naturally Curvy.

27.9.09

Fun Facts About Australia – Animals and Insects

One of the things Australia is best known for is its variety of strange, interesting and sometimes scary animals and insects.

Here are a few interesting facts about Australia’s wildlife:

*There are 1500 species of Australian spiders.
*There are over 6000 species of flies. (Waving flies away from your face is the “Australian wave”.)
*There are about 4000 species of ants.
*There are about 350 species of termite.
*Australia has some of the deadliest insects, reptiles and other animals in the world.
*There are more than 150 million sheep in Australia and about 20 million people. Even so, Australians still tease New Zealanders about all their sheep.
*Australia has the world’s largest cattle station (ranch).

Now should I tell you about the snakes that drop out of trees…?

Café Review: Café Moderno

When I first decided to review cafés, I decided without really thinking about it that I wouldn’t review cafés in large shopping centres. But, the more I thought about, the more I realized that even shopping centre cafés can have noticeably awesome staffs, do an excellent coffee and have other features that might keep me coming back.

Thus, here is my first review of a large shopping centre café: Café Moderno in Eastlands shopping centre.

Café Moderno

For a place located in a food court, Moderno has taken advantage of the small space they have to their best ability. From mirrors that make the tucked in dining space appear bigger to rather chic and modern furnishings otherwise, you can somewhat escape the crowds to sit and enjoy a coffee.

Moderno Coffees

The coffee is decent and well made, but it’s always good to specify exactly what you want in terms of strength if you want something other than the ‘decent standard’ you’d usually find almost anywhere in Melbourne and suburbs. If you aren’t quite in the mood for coffee, Moderno always has some sort of deal going. Hardly one to offer the same deal every day, they might have anything from all-day breakfast to a discounted new milkshake flavour.

The food is great, most items falling in the good price and good flavour range. There have been a few things that made me scratch my head in terms of pricing but certainly nothing to stop me from going there altogether. If you like pastas, pizzas, focaccias and the like, this is definitely a place to check out.

Always a big plus in my book, Moderno uses a loyalty card system (buy five to get one free) to keep customers choosing them over the multitude of other choices. The buy to free ratio isn’t the best I have seen, but it is better than a lot of other places in the same food court – if you can get a loyalty card at all.

My disappointment comes in the inconsistency of staff attitude. I have had some staff make me feel great and eager to come back while others make me wonder if being a shopping centre food court worker is one of the rings of hell. No one has been rude to me – a plus – but there are some prime examples of people who shouldn’t be in hospitality who are working there.

Overall, it’s a nice stop – one of my preferred for take away or stop in. I’m not keen on staying there much, but that’s more a matter of the masses of people than anything the café is doing.

I would like to note that the only reason I have rated this place as a newspaper is because it is in a noisy shopping centre food court. With a space more to itself, I would give it a higher rating.

***

Café Moderno
Shop G013
Eastland Shopping Centre Food Court
171 – 175 Maroondah Hwy
Ringwood 3134

25.9.09

Well, Huh

I'm gobsmacked.

I've been nominated for the Diving Caroline 'Love This Site' Awards.

I don't know who nominated me, but thank you! If you care to vote, that would be lovely.

I think this will take you right to it:



Otherwise, you can just click here.

24.9.09

Woman or Girl? (More Half-Pissed Musings)

Do you think of yourself as an adult or as a child?

The Bloke and I were at our local 'pub' last week - the Eat and Gamble - and were talking to a friend we have there. Hm. He needs a blog name. I'll call him John Mischief.

The Bloke and Mischief were talking about life, etc, and The Bloke asked, "Do you regard yourself as a boy or a man?"

Mischief replied, "A man."

The Bloke asked, "Do you know when you started thinking of yourself as a man?"

With a few seconds to think, Mischief laid it all out. He explained a bit and told about the event when he started thinking of himself as a man.

I sat there listening to the conversation - The Bloke shared when he started thinking of himself as a man instead of a boy - and I thought about the question. Did I think of myself as a girl or woman? What came naturally to my tongue when I answered the question?

When I think: 'A ____ has to do what a ____ has to do' about myself, I fill in those blanks with 'girl'.

In my life in Australia, I have made a lot of changes. I honestly don't know if I would truly know the person I used to be. I have grown in so many different ways, so much for the better. Yet, I don't naturally regard myself as a woman.

Why I still think of myself as a girl, I don't know. I would think that taking a massive flight across the world in what I still consider to be the defining moment of my life would be enough to transition into mental womanhood.

No dice. I still think as myself as a girl.

I'm not exactly sure why this is so frustrating to me, but it is. I've had dozens of people in my life over the years call me more mature than my age. I've had a couple tell me I have an old soul. So why does 'girl' come to mind and not 'woman'?

Do you think of yourself as a girl/boy or do you think of yourself as a man/woman? If the latter, what moment of your life brought you there? Was there a moment or event at all? Do you even recall?

23.9.09

The One Where I Confess My Secret Desire...

I've always wanted to be a beautiful singer. I can sing; I just don't do it well. It's always been a dream of mine to have the confidence to stand up in front of people and belt out something beautiful...

I want to sing this:



(Here You Come Again - Dolly Parton)

And this:



(I Won't Say I'm in Love - Hercules)

And this, even though it's a duet:



(Light My Candle - RENT)

And if my life was a musical? This would so happen:



(La Vie Boheme - RENT [my absolute favourite musical, by the way])

And now I throw it open to you...

Do you have any secret desires? Something you want to do but are afraid to?

Please don't tell me I'm the only one who has one... Dancing? Singing like me? Or maybe painting? Featuring your work - whatever it may be - in a gallery or at a fair?

What do you dream of?

22.9.09

Late Night Half-Pissed Musings

I love Australia. I think I've made that very clear here.

But I would just like to say, when it comes down to it, it's not where you are - it's who you're with.

Back in the States, I never imagined life could ever be this good. I will be forever grateful to The Bloke for his infinite understanding and caring as I blunder through life and Australia just trying to figure out what it all means.

And to everyone else - Down Under and Up Over - who has understood my journey, the mistakes I need to make so I can learn and the reasons I needed to leave where I grew up: you are all amazing to me.

Truly.

It's who you're with.

G'night.

20.9.09

Mild Concussion

This is a magpie.



This is a magpie diving on a human.



This is where I where I should have a picture of what happens to your head when a magpie divebombs you and you're not fortunate enough to be wearing a helmet.

X

(Sorry.)

I didn't take a picture because one, I didn't feel like it and two, it wasn't that bad. I turned my head enough to get a thud and scratch to my head rather than the temple gouging I think he was going for.

Anywho, after an interesting day losing a bit of my vocabulary, going in and out of nausea/dizziness and trying to bake when short term memory wasn't that great, I've been trying to take it easy this weekend. I still have my headache, but the rest has fixed itself.

Just a warning, though: when it's spring in Melbourne, be careful about young cocky magpies and don't wear black and white scarves. Okay?

17.9.09

Ask What You Will - Answered

When I first invited readers here to 'Ask What You Will', I didn't expect much of a response. Lo and behold, I have some wonderful - and some personal ;) - questions from you.

Today I'm going to answer those questions...

Jenera asked...

~Do you own any adult toys?

Yep! Not anything very exciting because toys tend to be expensive.

~If yes, what is your favorite?

I only have the one - a rabbit vibrator that hasn't worked for months. I haven't had the time nor the need to take it apart to see if I can get it to work again.

(The Bloke will always be my favourite sex toy. ;) )

~Which toy would you love to try?

There is actually this little butterfly strap on thing that has a wireless remote used to make the well-placed butterfly vibrate. I'd love to try that because The Bloke would have control over the remote.

~If you could have any dog, what breed would you choose? (without worrying about landlords, space, cost, etc)

I really think German Shepherd just because of the love, the intelligence, the cute factor, plus - to be honest - the number of German Shepherds The Bloke has trained. I'm in love with Staffys as well, but German Shepherds still top the list.

~Do you have a dream car?

I'd have to say a Hyundai Accent in the most recent year possible. I'm not a lot into cars for more than getting from a to be with little petrol consumption and good mechanical support/warranty from the company.

~How many kids do you want to have?

In the multiples lottery, I'm a lot more likely to have twins than the average woman. I've known this since a very young age, so I've never really thought about having fewer than two children. Three is pretty much what I've had in mind when I think about it.

~If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?

Australia. I haven't had the chance to visit Europe or South America, but I really can't imagine a place grabbing my heart and keeping it like Australia has. There is such a beautiful diversity of life and landscapes here that I can't imagine being happier - in regards to landscape, wildlife, exploration, way of life, etc - than I am here.

Hanlie asked...

How did you meet The Bloke and was it love at first sight?

I met The Bloke on an online writer's forum. You could say it was love at first chat. We danced around each other a little bit and ended up having our first chat on yahoo messenger last from about 9pm my time to about 7.30am my time. And even then, we only stopped talking because I had to go to class.

It was definitely love at first chat, though. He had me head over runners from that first conversation.

What makes you cry?

Ah, lovely. Haha. I'm actually a bit sensitive, so I cry over a few things. Human cruelty (what we do to each other and our children) can make me cry, thinking about things I went through when I was a child can make me cry (less often these days), when I want to make someone's life better but it's out of my hands I can get a bit teary-eyed...

Oh, if The Bloke gets even a little teary-eyed, I'm gone. I cannot handle that well at all.

Emma asked...

Are you developing an Australian accent yet?

A little bit. Fewer people seem to notice, but Australians are the accent experts of the world so they still notice. I am to the point where I'm learning about the finer things in regards to pronunciation. For instance, an American would say Mildura (a town) whereas Aussies pronounce is almost like Mildjura.

I think I would sound a little strange to people back in Wisconsin, but not true Aussie.

What about all these deadly Australian animals we hear about? Have you encountered any?

Most of the deadlies are in the bush, whereas I'm in a suburb. So no, I haven't encountered many. However, on my last trip out to western Victoria, we did come across this little fella...





He's an echidna. :) You don't want to get in this guy's way. In the picture he is wandering around the country pub we were at. One of his spikes came off, so to give you an idea...



These guys? Okay. I just want to keep away from the spiders and snakes...

Do you like to wear slippers?

Yep. Love 'em. I'm wearing a pair now.

April asked...

What are some Australian sayings that had you stumped the first time you heard them?

The rhyming slang is always interesting, but you pick it up fairly quickly.

"trouble and strife" = wife
"Have a Captain Cook" = have a look (this one took me a little while)

I'm sure there are a couple more I'm just not thinking of at the moment.

DaveP asked...

Can you see yourself living in Australia for the rest of your life? If so, what will you miss the most about the U.S.?

Oh, yes. I'm a permanent resident now and plan to become a citizen. I have no plans to live anywhere else.

I get asked what I miss most quite a lot, actually. I think, above and beyond all, autumn in Wisconsin. Autumn is still my favourite season since moving here, but there is something gloriously, wonderfully beautiful about autumn in Wisconsin when all the trees are turning such fabulous colours, the days are getting longer, the corn is growing yellow in the fields... Yum.

What other countries are you eager to visit?

Shall I name them all? I would love to go on a world trip because there are so many places I'd love to go. Japan, China, Singapore, India, Egypt, all around Europe, etc. The Bloke went on a world trip a few years before we met and I love all his stories from the places he visited.

What style of writing do you prefer: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, blogging, other?

When I'm doing the writing? Well, blogging is certainly the easiest, which means it has a definite draw. The instant publication quality of it is not only intriguing but gratifying in certain ways.

I think I will always prefer fiction above all because in the imagination, nothing is impossible. I know that sounds cheesy, but that is what it comes down to. You are the only limit to your imagination.

However, I must say that, after having about half a dozen people tell me I need to put my life story into a book, non-fiction has risen in its appeal to me. Not because people are intrigued by the things I've done but because there is an amazing release in writing down where you have been, no matter how much you may thing it's boring.



***

Phew! Thank you all for the wonderful questions that truly got me thinking. You're welcome to ask more if you like, but I rather think people know more than they wanted to know about me now...

;)

15.9.09

Ask What You Will

Well, Jenera did it so I think I should to it too...

I have always loved interviews and impromptu Q&As, so when Jenera offered to answer any questions people asked on her blog. There are plenty of things, I think, that people might want to know about me, about Australia, etc, so I thought I would open the doors.

So have at it, if you wish. Ask anything you would like to ask. :) I'll put another post up later in the week with my answers.

13.9.09

Café Review: University Café

In every big city, there is a place where you ‘have’ to go to get great food. For Melbourne, that place is Lygon street.

Of course, there are so many cafés to choose from that, if you’re not familiar with the area, you pretty much just go into one and hope for the best. That was pretty much what I did when I picked out University Café.

university cafe

The first thing you are likely to notice about University café is the number of places available to sit. You can watch the world go by or enjoy the beautiful weather in the on street seating, choose from one of two sections on the ground floor indoors that are split by a staircase that leads up to the restaurant if you want to come back later for dinner.

There is the typical Italian fare available on the menu – everything from foccacias to pasta. There is also an absolutely delicious looking assortment of cakes and pies, all available for you to drool over at the display case inside the café.

One thing I couldn’t help but notice is that for a ‘university’ café, there are quite a few meals that would be above a student’s budget. That isn’t to say there aren’t affordable options on the menu, but expect to pay for your pasta.

university cafe coffee

The coffee is as excellent as you would expect it to be, with all the strength and none of the burnt flavour. However, if you like your macchiatos strong (two shots), you’re going to have to ask for the extra shot. I lingered over my coffee of choice – flat white – and quite enjoyed the smoothness of it and none of the unpleasant bitter taste you occasionally get with flat whites.

For the reader rating, I have given University Café a newspaper because of the feel and the business of the place, but it’s more than obvious this café is a very popular place to meet up and have a chat. There is almost always a wide assortment of people sitting down or getting takeaway, but the place never seems to get too noisy, which is a definite plus.

I can easily see this as a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by for a while as you enjoy a nice cup of coffee (and perhaps a bit of reading as well).

***

University Café
257 Lygon Street
Carlton 3053

Phone: 9347 2142
Fax: 9347 0705
Email: bookings@unicafe.com.au

12.9.09

Sharing is Caring - Tickle Tickle

For the final day of this meme, I'm supposed to share 'whatever tickles my fancy'. Weeeeell, I'm a big fan of fun (but useless outside of trivia games) facts. So here we go:

On my quest to learn more about Australia, I decided to take some time and narrow down the fact finding to my beloved Melbourne. True to form for any Australian capital city, Melbourne didn’t disappoint in the realm of interesting, strange and funny facts.

Here are just a few to get you started:

*Pronounced “Mel-burn” not “Mel-Born”.
*Melbourne is the capital of Victoria.
*Melbourne has the second largest Greek population, after Athens.
*The Dim Sim, beloved snack of Australians, was invented in 1945 in Melbourne.
*During the Gold Rush of the 1850s, Melbourne was the richest city in the world.
*The expression “call girl” for a prostitute originated in Melbourne.
*The opening of the lion enclosure of the Melbourne Zoo in 1967 was the first “walk through” zoo enclosure of its type in the world.
*The world’s first frozen embryo baby was born in Melbourne on March 28, 1984 and was named Zoe Leyland.

Original meme here.